Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Marvel at the undersea world of Georgia Aquarium

The penguin exhibit is a favorite
for all ages.
On a visit to see family living near Atlanta, we took an excursion to the Georgia Aquarium, one of the most remarkable facilities of its kind in the world. Opened in 2005, it’s the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed in the world only by Singapore’s Marine Life, which opened in 2012.

This public aquarium provides an entertaining and educational experience for both children and adults utilizing tanks that collectively hold 10 million gallons of water and display more than 500 species of fish and other sea creatures.
The moving sidewalk takes visitors
under an ocean of fish.
Our first stop was at the moving sidewalk, which gently transports visitors through a huge tunnel with fish swimming beside and above them. The plexiglass walls of the Ocean Voyager exhibit are so unobtrusive that it wasn’t unusual to see people step back—even flinch a bit--when a large fish swam really close. The kids especially enjoyed walking though the low-ceilinged 100-foot- long underwater tunnel where they could view stingrays, groupers, and whale sharks through large windows (Note to adults: You’ll have to stoop and scoot the entire way if you chose to accompany your child).

We took our time strolling through the aquarium’s five galleries: Tropical Diver, filled with thousands of brilliantly colored fish; Ocean Voyager, which features the first manta ray on display in the U.S.; Cold Water Quest, with graceful beluga whales, brightly colored garibaldi damselfish (Deepo is the aquarium’s mascot); River Scout, displaying otters and other river species; and Dolphin Tales, where we watched agile dolphins perform enthralling tricks in the AT&T Dolphin Tales show.
Swimming in the ocean--at least pretending to do so.
Special programs that visitors can participate in for an extra fee include Dolphin Encounter, Sea Otter Encounter Experience, and Penguin Encounter. Each takes people behind the scenes, teaches about care of the animals, and provides a close-up and personal interactive experience.

Colorful fish are fascinating to watch.
Visitors can even swim or SCUBA dive with zebra sharks, bowmouth guitarfish, pompano, rays, and many more species in a special Ocean Voyager program called Journey with Gentle Giants. It’s the only opportunity in the world where you’ll be in the water with the whale shark, largest fish in the world.
The aquarium was a vision of businessman Bernard Marcus, who donated initial funds to build and stock the facility. Marcus claims that his 60th birthday dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium inspired him and his wife to visit 56 aquariums in 13 countries before donating $250 million for the Georgia Aquarium.

A hands-on drumming
exhibit created sound waves.
In addition to providing a quality attraction for Atlanta, Marcus wanted a facility that would pursue aquatic conservation and research. The aquarium, distinguished by its blue metal and glass exterior that reminds people of a giant ark breaking through a wave, is located in downtown Atlanta on land donated by The Coco-Cola Company. It is open 365 days a year, usually from 10-5 on Sunday-Friday and 9-6 on Saturday. Hours of operation vary, however, so check for exact times at
A singular jellyfish in the
clear blue water.
We left the Georgia Aquarium after three hours of watching active marine life, learning about their habits and habitats through fun exhibits, and participating in numerous hands-on activities. 

Photos by Beverly Burmeier



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